Mobile messaging by migrant micro-entrepreneurs in contexts of superdiversity

Tagg, Caroline and Lyons, Agnieszka (2018). Mobile messaging by migrant micro-entrepreneurs in contexts of superdiversity. In: Creese, Angela and Blackledge, Adrian eds. The Routledge Handbook of Language and Superdiversity. Routledge Handbooks. Routledge, pp. 312–328.



This chapter explores an aspect of contemporary social life that is only now coming to the attention of either the superdiversity or business communication literature, that of the use of mobile phones by small business owners, including those who have migrated to the country where they now work. A growing body of research has focused on the role played by the internet in fostering superdiversity, both by enabling migrants to maintain links with their home countries and by bringing people together into groups shaped by common interest or purpose, regardless of geographical distance or of ethnic, cultural and linguistic difference. As we shall see, research into such groupings often focuses on internet forums and other public, multiparty online spaces. In contrast, a focus on migrant business owners suggests that private, often one-to-one communication through mobile messaging apps such as WeChat and Viber can play a very different role for individuals working and living within a superdiverse neighbourhood. First, it reveals how mobile messaging apps may be used by migrant micro-entrepreneurs in establishing somewhat ethnically and linguistically homogeneous social support networks; and second, how their virtual, seemingly decontextualised interactions are in fact grounded in their everyday social lives and business transactions. In this chapter, having outlined the core topics and issues around the roles that digital technologies play in superdiversity and in contemporary business communication, we elaborate on the observations made above, drawing on examples from our own research.

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